Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Some Words from a Guest Blogger

this probably should've been a post but here i am.... maybe i will make it one...

excellent comments andom; most especially because they highlight the role our-ever friendly media plays in devaluing racism.

but in truth, what's a woman who thinks, well i do remember hearing

Smack that, give me some more
Smack that, 'till you get sore
Smack that.

and akon's "smack that" doesn't even include "ho".

there's also snoop dog's interesting response to being compared to don imus, which is problematic in its own right, but an interesting comment nonetheless:

"These are two separate things. First of all, we ain't no old-ass white men that sit up on MSNBC [the cable network home to Imus] going hard on black girls. We are rappers that have these songs coming from our minds and our souls that are relevant to what we feel. I will not let them mutha-----as say we in the same league as him." http://newsbusters.org/node/11981

interesting. several questions which i'd like to debate:
if one ought to take care and consider the nature of media representations when discussing internal injustice, how does one proceed to create interior justice if not in the public sphere, if not in bringing to light these cultural internalizations of systemic oppression? where is this so-called private, black-only sphere where black identity can heal itself from colonial assumptions of heteronormativity?
and do we not paternalistically presume that our community is too weak to acknowledge internal discrepancies and then to proceed with an equally public movement away from misogyny, an example of progress?

it is a testament of our capacity to represent blackness not as a stringent category of identification, to demonstrate its capacity for morphing, for evolution. perhaps the question is not whether specificity of viewpoints in the black community contribute to division, but rather how do we develop a rhetoric that uncategorically demonstrates us as unified against white supremacy and at the same time, incontestably human in our capacity to express viewpoints that alternate from brother to brother, sister to sister. we are not a political party with one ideology to which we march (though perhaps some might argue we ought to be), we are a people, in the multivarious forms that the word "people" takes.

is it also not possible to reject don imus' and his likes while also stating, 'we categorically reject hip hop's perpetuation of misogyny which sustains heteronormativity, a system of power upon which white supremacy often rests?' - or something along these lines.

it would be a shame to shy from this discussion and alienate our women from our identity on grounds that race as it relates to our relationship to the white public takes precedence over gender discourse within the community.

what's more, i am **accutely** sensitive to the historical legacy of white colonialism (in its wondrous, multivarious forms) use of women's positions in other cultures to attack these communities as primitive, backwards etc., a reason to mutilate cultures. i think the discourse of feminism in the Middle East currently testifies directly to this.

but i am concerned that this acute awareness of how these cultural critiques from the "enlightened" eurocentric lead us to great susceptibility to 1. perpetually imbue female bodies with the role of cultural representatives such that these discussions about race necessarily occur through our bodies, once more encouraging the silencing of women as mere bodily representors of idealism - does she or doesn't she wear a veil, does she or doesn't she wear her culture's garb, does she or doesn't she cook X food, doesn't she or doesn’t she use birth control, is she or isn't she raising our children in this way, etc (has any one heard black female view points? maybe i've missed this but it appears as though men are once more speaking in the place of women) 2. accentuate one form of injustice over another.

so perhaps someone can answer for me where this private sphere for black judgment occurs, and why we cannot reclaim justice as a heterogenous community rather than one that necessarily presents a monolithic front; in short, why in at once condemning don imus' racist comments, there can't be a more nuanced and yes, public critique that acknowledges hip hop's perpetuation of not merely gender injustice but equally problematic, race injustice by so vividly and so often reflecting the rhetoric of white heteronormativity (though perhaps in a more verbose manner than white sexism's great capacity to be insidious)? why when we critique hip hop's gender injustice we cannot also publicly denounce the *continued* unequal pay of women across the US, the many unjust applications of rape laws, the eroding access a woman has to birth control let alone abortion, the absence of day care to ensure women's actual capacity to enter the work force, the appalling number of women tenured as professors despite the steadfast, growing number of females graduating university compared to their male peers.

it's not right, i concede, that the black community must both bear the brunt of racism as well as be the solutions to these injustices. but i am deeply concerned when one form of injustice and its resolution take precedence over another because we find ourselves in the public and often oppositionary eye of the other. i am beginning to understand the dangerous cost of this double consciousness, this perpetual acknowledgment of the white perspective on blackness.

it’s our difficult to move forward with change by taking hold of the rhetoric and calling internal critique of blackness not an instance of division but a representation of another assault on whiteness, where we refuse to perpetuate power structures which have and will continue to uphold racial, gender oppression so long as we choose to not tear down the both simultaneously.

we are fortunate enough to historically know how women have been sidelined in and for race politics (http://www.buffalostate.edu/orgs/rspms/combahee.html) – let’s not make the same mistake twice.

so be equally insulted that black women were referred not only in racially derogatory terms, but at the absurdity of reducing our amorphous and profound sexuality to an apparatus for lust.

i won’t choose to be more upset as a woman or a black person in these comments. i’ll thunder that i’m made to choose, as though sexism and racism were not cut from the same cloth. so snoop can talk from his soul as much as he wants and don imus can reveal his true colors, but neither’s masculinity or blackness is enough a shield to protect him from my anger.

**and may i just add that these moments of internal critique need to be buffered with the role of the media which uplifts misogynistic rap while giving little to no play to rappers like lupe, dead prez, talib, roots, and so many others who have returned to rap's original *revolutionary* role as a voice of dissent and a voice of UPLIFT. there's a reason why hip hop has taken root around the world, from senegal with the amazing didier awadi rapping against neocolonialism to the banlieus of paris against france's hypocritical reputation as race-heaven to palestinians against the israeli occupation to female middle eastern MCs rapping about american cultural hegemony.

so i say: rap is beautiful.
let's bring it back home.

ps for someone notably more eloquent than myself, the black law feminist kimberly crenshaw has written on this not-so-new issue. y'all should check out her article:

pps tns doing loving internal critique…


trying said...

"if one ought to take care and consider the nature of media representations when discussing internal injustice, how does one proceed to create interior justice if not in the public sphere, if not in bringing to light these cultural internalizations of systemic oppression? where is this so-called private, black-only sphere where black identity can heal itself from colonial assumptions of heteronormativity?"

Ok, I'm going to be completely honest here: this is language that I find very difficult to understand, and because of that the point of this post was mostly lost on me, despite the fact that I read through it twice.

I have taken classes in gender studies and African American studies at Yale, so I am familiar with the jargon of these fields. But there is so much jargon in this post that it is really, really difficult to get my head around. I have the same difficulty with the Black Justice Blog. It's really inaccessible to people who aren't comfortable using academic jargon to discuss these issues.

I think that the best gender and racial justice blogs are those that are accessible to everyone, not just people holding PhDs, or whatever it takes to get to the core ideas in some very jargon-filled, stylized writing.

Elizabeth said...

thanks, trying. i spend a lot of time in my head thinkng about this life.
consider my experience when i say, "this __ ish is racist" and many of my white peers say..."no it isn't it, you're paranoid. you're using the race card". well, maybe if i break it down in intellectual terms, these peers can say 1. hey, there goes an articulate negro! 2. there's a historical/intellectual point of origin for what they're speaking about which makes it hard for me to refute black consciousness as just reactionary.
thanks for your thoughts though - they're mad helpful. and holla at your taking afam/gender classes. keep on.

trying said...

Hey Elizabeth, thanks for the response. I definitely see what you mean. I am a white peer who is very unlikely to make the accusation that you're paranoid or playing some kind of race card, so for me I just want the easiest way into your argument I suppose. :) Or maybe I'm just a lazy blog reader which may also be the case!

But I can appreciate that other people respond better if you approach them on that historical/intellectual common ground. It's tricky trying to reach everyone through the right language, I think, whether the issue is race or gender.

Anonymous said...

Rap star Cam'ron says there's no situation -- including a serial killer living next door -- that would cause him to help police in any way, because to do so would hurt his music sales and violate his "code of ethics." Cam'ron, whose real name is Cameron Giles, talks to Anderson Cooper for a report on how the hip-hop culture's message to shun the police has undermined efforts to solve murders across the country.

How perverse the rap culture in America has become.

elizabeth said...

Except here I'd have to point to the legacy of distrust established by government institutions with African American citizens, with the police representing a brutal front of racist regulation. It's certainly tragic that rap culture has come to distrust police institutions and have such "undermined efforts to solve murders across the country" but given the continuing history of negative relationships between the police and African American communities, where community self-policing is rarely considered a viable mode of eliminating drugs and crime in our communities, it is understandable that the police continue to occupy that role of dangerous outsider whose method of "cleaning-up" the community is directly in conflict with the aims safe-guarding citizens.

When African American make somewhere around 13% of the population and around 50% in the prison system - jails evidently have become the communities' primary correctional facilities; fostering, I think, understandable though unfortunate sentiments of distrust.

Second, consider what it means that approximately 70% of rap consumers are white patrons, while also being aware the nature of markets where the consumers' desires (or at least their preceived desires) contribute to the character of the product consumed. While rappers have agency as individuals to choose to place certain lyrics on the page, they are bound by the economic potential of their music to choose between money and art. So if this industry is significantly supported in part by 70% white consumers, there are a curious question that arises:
-the violent, misogynistic aspects of rap are most certainly not inherent in rap. it is a 30-yr old institution so the sometimes undue attention afforded the industry, especially say when other misoynistic and violent aspects of american culture are continuously perpetuated with nary a say....well, where can we establish alliances between the hip hop world and the rest of american life to create a more broad coalition for change?

thanks for the great quote.

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